Type of innovation: Business model
Innovation leader: Shared leadership
In 1940, shortly after the end of the Spanish Civil War, Víctor Grifols i Lucas joined his father in the family business as technical director of the laboratory. Although post-war Spain presented a challenging environment, these were some of the most satisfying years of his professional life, a time when every problem was an opportunity to search for innovative solutions even if, in the words of Dr. Víctor, these often relied on “a cork and a shoestring”.
In 1957, with his friend Guillermo de Celis, he founded Gri-Cel, a company that manufactured instruments both for Laboratorios Grifols and for other companies. In addition to designing and manufacturing its own products, Gri-Cel was appointed as the Spanish distributor of a wide range of devices produced by overseas companies, and these international relationships would become a pillar of the company’s growth in the 1960s and 70s.
It was not until the 1990s, though, that a separate applied engineering department was created within Grifols, constituted originally by Víctor Grifols i Lucas and two engineers, and focusing primarily on developing clinical diagnostic and hospital pharmacy equipment.
Sharing knowledge and experience
Finally, in 2001, a separate subsidiary company – Grifols Engineering – was established, with the support of Juan Ignacio Twose, Grifols global industrial vice-president. Under the management of Sergi Roura, Grifols Engineering initially delivered pharmaceutical engineering projects for other Grifols group companies. It was organized into two areas – projects and applied engineering – and incorporated staff from other divisions or departments.
The creation of Grifols Engineering reflected a wider commitment on the part of Grifols to pursuing a strategy of vertical integration. As a result, Grifols had in-house expertise in the highly technical and complex processes upon which its activities relied. This was a vital source of added value, delivering major savings (between 20 and 40 percent) in the costs associated with the design and development both of specific equipment and of entire manufacturing plants.
Grifols pioneered this approach and was the only plasma products manufacturer to incorporate the in-house design and development of instruments and equipment into its business model. Its competitors generally made do with a maintenance department, and contracted larger engineering projects to consultants and third-party suppliers.
Supplying third parties
Grifols Engineering’s first external project was the SEVAC project to supply consultancy services and equipment to the Ministry of Health in the Czech Republic. This spurred the decision to establish a dedicated engineering consultancy unit.
Today, Grifols Engineering not only sells equipment and devices but also provides technical consultancy services for pharmaceutical engineering and biopharmacy projects to third parties. The company’s range of high-tech solutions includes sterile filling systems, automated systems for opening plasma units, the supply and assembly of clean zones, and the design of specialized manufacturing facilities.
“Grifols pioneered this approach and was the only plasma products manufacturer to incorporate the in-house design and development of instruments and equipment into its business model. Its competitors generally made do with a maintenance department, and contracted larger engineering projects to consultants and third-party suppliers.”
- Grupo Grifols. (2000). Grifols Engineering, S.A. Creation of new company approved by the Board of Directors. Revista Cosmos: periódico para los colaboradores del Grupo Grifols, 18(4), 6.
- Grupo Grifols. (2006). Grifols Engineering at the Expoquimia Exhibition. Revista Cosmos: periódico para los colaboradores del Grupo Grifols, 36(1), 12.
- Avellà, R., & Miquel, B. (Eds.). (2015). Cuando un sueño se cumple. Crónica ilustrada de 75 años de Grifols. Barcelona: Grupo Grifols, S.A.